Man oh man, has it been a while since my last good, solid rant. Ranting is generally a lot easier when you’re pissed off about something, and I’m not. Well, not really. But it does really irk me when designers try to pass off time as gameplay. “Hey buddy old pal, I need you to take this to some random place 15 minutes away.” *30 minutes later* “Thanks for taking that to the random place! Here’s a crappy reward that is worth less than if you’d decided to grind for 30 minutes instead of wasting your time!”
Pretty annoying, isn’t it? That’s because it’s not fun. What is more valuable than anything to a player? Time. What should designers not be wasting? Brain power on good quests. Oh wait, no. The correct answer was, “a player’s time.” Time is a player’s most valuable asset, and it’s our job as game designers not to waste it.
Now, I’m not saying that travel time should not exist. On the contrary, I quite like travel time. But it can and should be used in the right ways, such as to create a sense of scale in the world, help form micro-communities, and a few other reasons that I already talked about (so I won’t talk about them again here. Also, this is a rant, not a lesson).
Back to me being frustrated. I like to think that some things annoy me more as a gamer/game designer than a lot of other people. It pisses me off when I’m given a quest to go waste my time in a game, so that’s strike 1. But it also offends me as a game designer because it makes the rest of us look bad when other designers try to pass off time-wasters as quests, so that’s strike 2. What’s strike 3? Both of them combined annoy me one full extra time over for the final strike.
It’s not just quests that waste a player’s time. It’s raid instances that are full of 5 hours of fodder and 30 minutes of fun. Time is not gameplay. It’s making a player sit around for 10 minutes after they die before they can be effective again. Time is not gameplay. It’s making crafting a single item take a couple minutes of watching your screen before you get anything useful or even really interact. Time is not gameplay.
There’s a hell of a lot of time wasters in MMOs. I understand, it’s hard to fill a game up with a lot of fun for a lot of hours. I’ve been there. I am there. I’ll be there. But, I also believe that cherishing a player’s time is an important way to enable them to have fun in the game.
For you critics out there, time wasters aren’t in a game to keep players subscribed longer. You don’t have to waste a player’s time to keep them subscribed, they have to have fun, get connections with the community, and experience all of the good aspects of MMOs (not the time wasters).
Stop trying to pass off time as gameplay. It isn’t fun.